Singletracks: CEC Sun Peaks Report
Welcome to Singletracks, brought to you by GasGas Pacific and A&E Racing. Judging by the number of GasGas motorcycles at the opening round of the Canadian Enduro Championships, GasGas is arguably the most popular enduro racing motorcycle in Canada! If you’d like to try out a GasGas, talk to the folks at GasGas Pacific in BC or A&E Racing in Alberta!
Sun Peaks, BC hosted the opening weekend of the Canadian Enduro Championships.
Well, it’s finally here: the Canadian Enduro Championships. After months of provincial series races, all the speculation and rumours can be put to rest as the best off-road racers in Canada converged on beautiful Sun Peaks, BC for the opening weekend of the CEC. The Sun Peaks national enduro was put together by offroad legend Guy Perrett along with help from a number of volunteers. Due to land issues with the local Indian band and some ranchers, the course was put together at the last minute but thanks to the hard work of Al Perrett and his dedicated trail crew, they overcame the numerous issues surrounding the event and held a national enduro at Sun Peaks, BC.
Bobby Prochnau was back on top of Canadian Enduro, going 1-1 on the weekend.
A cold spring, late snowpack and a lot of rain all conspired to make the course very muddy, keeping the course officials busy pulling bikes and re-routing problem areas. One the first day the enduro test became impassable and the test results were thrown out. Day two saw the enduro test moved to an old fire guard cut line, providing a short, high speed hill climb for the racers. Despite those issues, Sun Peaks was still a spectacular venue for an enduro. The pits were located in a parking lot on the edge of the village and the motocross test was right in town too. The motocross test was a mostly natural terrain grass track full of tight corners that kept bigger bikes stuck in first or maybe second gear. Part of the transfer trail ran up the grassy ski slopes, providing racers with an amazing opportunity to stretch their throttle cables on a pristine ski run. The extreme test was put together at the very last minute, featuring natural terrain obstacles including a rocky creek bed and lots of roots.
The motocross test was located right in the Sun Peaks village.
Hype for the 2011 Canadian Enduro Championships was high. With 2009 champ Bobby Prochnau healthy and dominant in BC and Jason Schrage and Brian Wojnarowski dominating the scenes in their respective province, the stage was set for an all out battle for national enduro supremacy. In total, there were fifty pros at Sun Peaks ready to race in four pro classes.
Tyler Murray is hoping to win the E1 championship this year, and isn't afraid to twist the throttle in the process. Murray went 3-2 over the weekend, despite many spectacular incidents like this one on the motocross test.
In the E1 class, Phillipe Chaine narrowly took the win ahead of Nathan Knox and Tyler Murray. The Feeding Performance Husqvarna rider was smooth, fast and consistent in the extreme test where he made up most of the time. Finishing just nine seconds behind Chaine, Nathan Knox couldn’t match Chaine’s pace in the extreme test. Rounding out the podium was last year’s A class champion, Tyler Murray. Murray doesn’t let his short stature slow him down and is often seen with his legs dangling off the back of his bike with the throttle pinned. Murray’s riding style is wild, but it works as he finished just six seconds behind Knox and fifteen seconds behind Chaine. Murray had my favorite comment of the day, right after the extreme test. “I’ve never crashed so many times in two minutes!” was his comment after another wild run through the tough natural terrain special test. Rounding out the top five was Nick Graffunder in fourth and motocrosser/MXP editor Ryan Gauld. Gauldy was fast in the motocross test, but struggled in the muddy extreme test.
Wojo went 5-3 in the E2 class at Sun Peaks to take top Easterner honours. It's taken a while, but Wojo is finally looking comfortable out west.
The E2 class was the largest pro class with almost twenty competitors. Riding 250 two-strokes and 450 thumpers, this is the most competitive class of the CECs. Competition was stacked, with Bobby Prochnau, Jason Schrage, Ben Rego, Shane Cuthbertson, Brian Wojnarowski, Guy Giroux, Brock Hoyer, Jarrett May and more all entered. Most people were focused on the battle between Prochnau and Schrage, the two previous CEC champions. Pressure was high and took its toll on both racers as they took more than a couple soil samples during the day’s event. Schrage really pushed hard and ended up struggling to keep things together all day. Despite his problems, Schrage still finished second (both overall and in E2) but was twenty one seconds adrift of the big #7 KTM of Bobby Prochnau. Prochnau was happy to be back on a 450 for the CECs and even a few crashes and stalling issues couldn’t slow him down.
Geoff Nelson may be thin, but he can still ride the snot out of open class machinery. Nelson leads the E3 class and sits third in the overall pro championship.
Finishing in third place (and fourth overall) was Corner Grass Race Team’s Ben Rego. Rego served notice in 2010 that he was a podium threat and now with the help of CGRT, looks to be a consistent front runner for 2011. In fourth place was the senior member of CGRT, Shane Cuthbertson while Brian Wojnarowski took top easterner honours in fifth in E2 and sixth overall. Guy Giroux opted to race the Husqvarna TE310 in the E2 class and despite being down on power compared to the 450s, took a very respectable sixth in E2 and seventh overall.
Malcolm Hett had a mixed weekend. He finished 3rd in E3 on day one, but a derailed chain on day two dropped him to sixth.
The E3 class was once again dominated by Geoff Nelson. Nelson proved he’s king of the open class machinery, riding his KTM300XC to a 48 second margin of victory over second place Ryan Graffunder. Nelson also finished third overall, proving he belongs in the upper echelon of Canadian off-road. Rounding out the podium and making it a BC sweep of the open class was Malcolm Hett. It took Hett all day to figure out the enduro format and find his groove, but he did and in the final extreme test, put in a time just seven seconds behind Nelson to solidify his podium position. The remaining positions in E3 were filled with GasGas EC300s. If not for a crash in the final extreme test, A&E Racing’s Chris Van Hove would have taken third. The crash knocked him down to fourth. Rounding out the top five was GasGas Pacific’s Thomas Cordner. Better known in the trials world, Cordner posted competitive special test times but couldn’t quite find the speed needed for the podium.
Mark Cahill and Dan Watt are tied for the points lead in Vet Pro.
The Vet Pro class featured the closest battle of the day. Alberta’s Dan Watt took the win, but was just eight seconds ahead of Trevor Todd. 2009 Vet Pro champion Mark Cahill settled for third, two seconds behind Todd and a total of ten seconds behind Watt. Now that’s some close racing!
Mike Laycraft was a revelation at Sun Peaks. Laycraft won the A class both days and even had a top 15 overall finish on day one.
The grueling, muddy course took its toll on the amateur racers with many of them dropping time on the transfer sections despite a two hour time allowance for a lap. The Amateur A class had forty racers, making it the largest class of the weekend. Mike Laycraft showed incredible speed taking the win and finishing 14th overall against the pros. Avery Turner took second 19 seconds back and Mike Opper finished on the final podium spot. Also of note in the A class was GasGas Pacific’s Victoria Hett. The first lady of Canadian off-road has shown she’s well ahead of the rest of the women and can battle it out with the guys. Hett finished down in 28th place in the A class, but if it weren’t for a really bad extreme test on the second lap, she would have placed well inside the top twenty!
Victoria Hett continues to earn her title of the 'First Lady of Canadian Off-road.' Tory rode the A class at Sun Peaks where she had mixed results.
The Women’s class saw GasGas trials bike mounted Heather Wall take the win. The grueling, muddy course became so difficult that Wall was the only woman that didn’t take any time penalties. Chantelle Bykerk took second place and if it weren’t for nine minutes in penalties, would have taken first. Third place went to Bree Taber while Lexi Pechout took fourth and was the only other woman to complete two laps.
Crashes like this were somewhat commonplace at Sun Peaks. Opening round jitters affected everyone, even Bobby Prochnau.
With the racing over in the late afternoon, everyone was busy washing bikes and preparing for the next day’s competition. Course workers were kept very busy re-routing the quagmire of a course. Some trails had to be cut out while others were bridged or modified to make them passable for racers. The extreme test was slightly changed after the roots and mud on one hill became too gnarly. Altogether, it was a busy Saturday night making the course ready for the hundreds of bikes passing over it up to three times during the next day.
Picturesque Sun Peaks village treated racers to a great, albeit muddy, enduro event.
Clear blue skies greeted racers on Sunday morning, and the sun helped dry things out, especially the motocross test. While parts were still muddy with standing water filling the ruts, other parts dried out nicely providing a perfect racing surface. After a half hour delay for setting up the timing on the enduro test, the first racers set out at 9:30am for six hours of enduro racing. After the first lap, most racers were all smiles with very few having time penalties. The course was holding up nicely (compared to Saturday) and racers were ‘Full Gas’ through the tests.
Phillipe Chaine barely took first in E1 on Sunday. His margin of victory was just one second.
In E1 Tyler Murray took direct aim at Phillipe Chaine. The two racers swapped test wins all day with Chaine getting the upper hand by just one second! Third place went to Dillon Bucknell on his Kawasaki KX250F. Bucknell had a rough go on Saturday but started to figure things out on Sunday. Look for him to be a podium contender next weekend in Alberta.
Schrage showed he deserves the #1 plate after battling with Prochnau all day. Schrage lost out on first by just four seconds.
The E2 class saw some very interesting results. Jason Schrage found his groove on Sunday and served notice to Prochnau that it’s not going to be an easy season. Schrage tied or beat Prochnau in the motocross and enduro tests and had a twelve second lead coming into the final extreme test. But, as he had done all day, Prochnau absolutely dominated the extreme test and came out with a four second gap ahead of Schrage. The close racing was exciting for spectators and it will be interesting to see how things shape up in Alberta.
Josh Allen was on the gas at Sun Peaks. Sunday saw Allen break into the top five in the super competitive E2 class.
Brian Wojnarowski found another gear on Sunday moving up to third in E2 and fourth overall. The Machine Racing Yamaha rider is figuring out the western terrain and will be a podium threat for the rest of the season. Ben Rego slipped to fourth on Sunday while fifth place went to Josh Allen. Josh is the son of Tony Allen, a fixture in Canadian off-road. After bike issues on Saturday it was great to see Josh show some of his potential. He’ll be one to watch next weekend in Alberta, especially if the tests feature faster terrain. Right behind Allen was pro motocrosser Brock Hoyer. Hoyer was very fast in the motocross and enduro tests, but couldn’t find the speed of the front runners in the extreme test. Hoyer had fun, and hopefully we’ll see him at more off-road races in the future! The remaining top ten positions in E2 went to Shane Cuthbertson, followed by Guy Giroux, PNWMA champion Jarrett May and another PN racer, Tim Dyck rounded out the top ten.
Thomas Cordner took second in E3 on his GasGas Pacific sponsored EC300.
The E3 class was again dominated by Geoff Nelson who finished over a minute ahead of second place, but the remaining positions were shaken up significantly. Malcolm Hett looked to have another podium position locked up, but a chain derailment during the final extreme test knocked him down to sixth. This allowed trials ace Stephen Foord to move into the top five on his A&E Racing GasGas EC300. Ryan Graffunder finished in fourth, not really having any issues but he just couldn’t find his race pace. A&E’s Chris Van Hove and GasGas Pacific’s Thomas Cordner ended up tied for second place, with Cordner getting the nod for second.
Feeding Performance Husqvarna's Ryan Graffunder went 2-4 in the E3 class, but will be looking for improvements next weekend in Blairmore.
Chris Van Hove moved on to the podium on Sunday, taking his GasGas EC300 to third.
Mark Cahill found his form on Sunday, moving up to first in Vet Pro. The former Canadian trials champion was very smooth and controlled, just what you’d expect for someone with Mark’s credentials. Scott Kinakin and Dan Watt ended up tied for second 14 seconds behind Cahill with Kinakin taking second and Watt in third.
Scott Kinakin took second in Vet Pro on Sunday.
The amateur classes struggled much less on Sunday with the new course. Mike Laycraft once again won the A class. Cole Dobovich moved up to second and Wayne Riemer took third. Mike Opper dropped to fourth and Ty McKenna moved up to fifth. McKenna is representing Canada at this year’s ISDE in Finland and looks like his training is going well. GasGas Pacific’s Victoria Hett moved up to twenty fifth, posting very competitive times in the motocross and enduro special tests, but a one minute time penalty and lack luster times in the extreme test held her back from a top twenty finish. The Women’s class saw Lexi Pechout narrowly take the win two seconds ahead of Chantelle Bykerk. Heather Wall dropped to third, but leads the points with 45 ahead of Bykerk’s 44 and Pechout’s 43. This is the closest championship battle and it will be interesting to see who takes the western championship next weekend in Blairmore.
Ty McKenna used the CECs as warm up for the ISDE next month.
Well, that’s it for this week’s Singletracks. Thanks again to GasGas Pacific and A&E Racing for sponsoring this column and stay tuned for a full report from Rounds 3 and 4 of the Canadian Enduro Championship next week!